IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis The Influence of Other Anthropogenic and Natural Forcings

A significant cooling due to other anthropogenic factors, dominated by aerosols, is a robust feature of a wide range of detection analyses. These analyses indicate that it is likely that greenhouse gases alone would have caused more than the observed warming over the last 50 years of the 20th century, with some warming offset by cooling from natural and other anthropogenic factors, notably aerosols, which have a very short residence time in the atmosphere relative to that of well-mixed greenhouse gases (Schwartz, 1993). A key factor in identifying the aerosol fingerprint, and therefore the amount of aerosol cooling counteracting greenhouse warming, is the change through time of the hemispheric temperature contrast, which is affected by the different evolution of aerosol forcing in the two hemispheres as well as the greater thermal inertia of the larger ocean area in the SH (Santer et al., 1996b,c; Hegerl et al., 2001; Stott et al., 2006c). Regional and seasonal aspects of the temperature response may help to distinguish further the response to greenhouse gas increases from the response to aerosols (e.g., Ramanathan et al., 2005; Nagashima et al., 2006).

Results on the importance and contribution from anthropogenic forcings other than greenhouse gases vary more between different approaches. For example, Bayesian analyses differ in the strength of evidence they find for an aerosol effect. Schnur and Hasselman (2005), for example, fail to find decisive evidence for the influence of aerosols. They postulate that this could be due to taking account of modelling uncertainty in the response to aerosols. However, two other studies using frequentist methods that also include modelling uncertainty find a clear detection of sulphate aerosols, suggesting that the use of multiple models helps to reduce uncertainties and improves detection of a sulphate aerosol effect (Gillett et al., 2002c; Huntingford et al., 2006). Similarly, a Bayesian study of hemispheric mean temperatures from 1900 to 1996 finds decisive evidence for an aerosol cooling effect (Smith et al., 2003). Differences in the separate detection of sulphate aerosol influences in multi-signal approaches can also reflect differences in the diagnostics applied (e.g., the space-time analysis of Tett et al. (1999) versus the space-only analysis of Hegerl et al. (1997, 2000)) as was shown by Gillett et al. (2002a).

Recent estimates (Figure 9.9) indicate a relatively small combined effect of natural forcings on the global mean temperature evolution of the second half of the 20th century, with a small net cooling from the combined effects of solar and volcanic forcings. Coupled models simulate much less warming over the 20th century in response to solar forcing alone than to greenhouse gas forcing (Cubasch et al., 1997; Broccoli et al., 2003; Meehl et al., 2004), independent of which solar forcing reconstruction is used (Chapter 2). Several studies have attempted to estimate the individual contributions from solar and volcanic forcings separately, thus allowing for the possibility of enhancement of the solar response in observations due to processes not represented in models. Optimal detection studies that attempt to separate the responses to solar and other forcings in observations can also account for gross errors in the overall magnitude of past solar forcing, which remains uncertain (Chapter 2), by scaling the space-time patterns of response (Section Using such a method, Tett et al. (1999) estimate that the net anthropogenic warming in the second half of the 20th century was much greater than any possible solar warming, even when using the solar forcing reconstruction by Hoyt and Schatten (1993), which indicates larger solar forcing and a different evolution over time than more recent reconstructions (Section 2.7.1). However, Stott et al. (2003b), using the same solar reconstruction but a different model, are not able to completely rule out the possibility that solar forcing might have caused more warming than greenhouse gas forcing over the 20th century due to difficulties in distinguishing between the patterns of response to solar and greenhouse forcing. This was not the case when using the response to solar forcing based on the alternative reconstruction of Lean et al. (1995), in which case they find a very small likelihood (less than 1%, as opposed to approximately 10%) that solar warming could be greater than greenhouse warming since 1950. Note that recent solar forcing reconstructions show a substantially decreased magnitude of low-frequency variations in solar forcing (Section 2.7.1) compared to Lean et al. (1995) and particularly Hoyt and Schatten (1993).

The conclusion that greenhouse warming dominates over solar warming is supported further by a detection and attribution analysis using 13 models from the MMD at PCMDI (Stone et al., 2007a) and an analysis of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Climate System Model (CCSM1.4; Stone et al., 2007b). In both these analyses, the response to solar forcing in the model was inferred by fitting a series of EBMs to the mean coupled model response to the combined effects of anthropogenic and natural forcings. In addition, a combined analysis of the response at the surface and through the depth of the atmosphere using HadCM3 and the solar reconstruction of Lean et al. (1995) concluded that the near-surface temperature response to solar forcing over 1960 to 1999 is much smaller than the response to greenhouse gases (Jones et al., 2003). This conclusion is also supported by the vertical pattern of climate change, which is more consistent with the response to greenhouse gas than to solar forcing (Figure 9.1). Further evidence against a dominant solar role arises from older analyses targeted at detecting the solar response (e.g., North and Stevens, 1998). Based on these detection results, which allow for possible amplification of the solar influence by processes not represented in climate models, we conclude that it is very likely that greenhouse gases caused more global warming over the last 50 years than changes in solar irradiance.

Detection and attribution as well as modelling studies indicate more uncertainty regarding the causes of early 20th-century warming than the recent warming. A number of studies detect a significant natural contribution to early 20th-century warming (Tett et al., 2002; Stott et al., 2003b; Nozawa et al., 2005; Shiogama et al., 2006). Some studies find a greater role for solar forcing than other forcings before 1950 (Stott et al., 2003b), although one detection study finds a roughly equal role for solar and volcanic forcing (Shiogama et al., 2006), and others find that volcanic forcing (Hegerl et al., 2003, 2007) or a substantial contribution from natural internal variability (Tett et al., 2002; Hegerl et al., 2007) could be important. There could also be an early expression of greenhouse warming in the early 20th century (Tett et al., 2002; Hegerl et al., 2003, 2007).